We propose to implement an initiative that will increase mental health research capacity in LA &C to generate evidence to guide policy on how to reduce the mental health treatment gap. We will prioritize building research capacity on task-shifting initiatives and the use of technology. Distance learning training courses, the resources center, the infrastructure and organization will be set up in the initial 2-year period. In the following 3 years we will implement the training and mentorship scheme. During this period we will start seeking additional funding for the sustainability of the program. In the last year we will have a well consolidated network with at least 3 main core centers covering the South Cone, Northern and Middle LA, and Central America;a large web of sub-centers attached to each one of these main centers. Research outputs (publications and grants) will be monitored all throughout. This capacity building proposal has three specific aims: 1) To create a functional network (hubs and spokes) of centers in LA that are or have potential to become Centers of Excellence in research and training on mental health. USP, Brazil, will act as the main hub, in close collaboration with two main sub-hubs based in Peru and Guatemala. These institutions are all experienced in health research training and represent the 3 main geographical areas we want to cover in the region. Each one of these centers will act as a min-hub where we will initially concentrate research capacity building for that country and other neighboring countries. 2) To create a research training program supported by the infrastructure already established in partner institutions, which will initially focus on training in methods to compare the effectiveness of innovative interventions for common mental disorders in general health care settings as well as the application of telecommunications technologies to reduce access barriers and costs. The program will have two main strategies: a) A distance learning research training program supported with a summer school and a resource center storing material to support research. This training program will cover our 3 priority strategies i.e. task-shifting, technological applications to mental health, and dissemination and scaling up;b) A mentorship program with at least one talented research fellow in each one of the 5 centers who will receive mentorship from Senior researchers. These trainees will have access to the main training program and will be offered a 'small start-up'funding scheme to pursue a pilot study of their own. 3) To create a realistic plan of expansion and sustainability to the network identifying and inviting new members within the region and obtaining additional funding to sustain the network over time.
Despite the high burden caused by mental disorders in LA &C, there is very limited research capacity for generating evidence to guide policy to reduce the treatment gap. The strategy proposed will consolidate a network for research capacity building in the region, based on modern strategies for training young researchers (e-learning;'hands-on'training;mentoring), with great potential for changing the present picture.